Mitsuye Yamada

Mitsuye Yamada’s essay, “Invisibility is an Unnatural Disaster: Reflections of an Asian American Woman,” begins with an anecdote of the classroom. A room full of white students reveals to Yamada that while they could calmly accept the anger of some minorities, such as Native Americans and Black Americans, the anger of Asian Americans, in the words of a student, “made me angry. Their anger made me angry, because I didn’t even know the Asian Americans felt oppressed. I didn’t expect their anger” (35).

Yamada has an awareness that she is visibly a minority, but she thought that she was an exception. There was no way for her to realize how letting casually racist and sexist remarks pass unchallenged went unnoticed. “I had supposed that I was practicing passive resistance while being stereotyped, but it was so passive no one noticed I was resisting; it was so much my expected role that it ultimately rendered me invisible” (36). Invisible and beneath notice, like a child.

And by treating women and minorities like children, the dominant classes keep them powerless. A man may claim that he respects women because he allows her to speak her point of view, but when his response to that opinion is consistently to ignore it, to pat her on the head for performing a nice trick and go on with whatever it was he was going to do before she opened her mouth, how is that respect?
Not only the young, but those who feel powerless over their own lives know what it is like not to make a difference on anyone or anything. The poor know it only too well, and we women have known it since we were little girls. The most insidious part of this conditioning process, I realize now, was that we have been trained not to expect a response in ways that mattered. We may be listened to and responded to with placating words and gestures, but our psychological mind set has already told us time and again that we were born into a ready-made world into which we must fit ourselves, and that many of us do it very well. (39) 
Do it very well and are little noticed for doing so. Conformity confers no reward, unless lack of punishment is a reward.

One line of Yamada’s struck me very closely. “I have, for too long a period of time accepted the opinion of others (even though they were directly affecting my life) as if they were objective events totally out of my control” (39). I find it a familiar mindset, to see others speaking with such confidence words describing their experiences and wonder how they could possibly do so if their opinions were not thoroughly examined and true? Out of fear, my own opinions were carefully measured for truth, factuality, relatedness to the conversation and the person or persons with whom I was conversing. Never could I let a sentence of opinion pass my lips without feeling anxious and wondering what the consequences might be. I didn't consider how others might simply be lacking that fear, that hyperawareness. I didn't consider that their opinions had no more weight than mine.

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